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Can Kone still have a role?

Clearly, it's time to take Arouna Kone out of the XI. But can the winger still help Everton in its quest to get a European spot?

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Monday's 4-3 loss to Stoke City will be seen as the latest tipping point in disfavor of Arouna Kone.

After using up virtually all of the goodwill he accumulated from a November hat trick versus Sunderland, Kone's horrendous showing against the Potters, a showing which was marked by more imbalanced play on the left side and a bizarre aversion to putting shots on net, should be enough for Roberto Martinez to drop the Ivorian for a run of games.

It's been covered on here at length recently as to what the solutions might be for Everton on the wings, and rightly so, those solutions at the moment do not include Kone. But with Steven Naismith, who has the only more unlikely hat trick this year than Kone, likely gone via transfer this month, it's not like Kone is leaving Goodison Park anytime soon. So, the question is, if he's to help Everton reach a European tournament, in what capacity will that be?

Up until this season, opinions on Kone weren't nearly as easily found because, well, Kone wasn't easily found. After a terrific season at Wigan Athletic playing under Martinez, Everton's newly-hired manager brought Kone with him. Only problem was, the fitness got stuck at the airport.

Having only played in 19 league games in his first two years with the Toffees, Kone was seemingly always on the training table. That's why the initial plan with him this season made sense. As a veteran player who had had his struggled with injuries, Kone could provide a substitution spark for a Toffees team that, at the time, only had two real attacking bright spots in Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku.

And that's just what happened on opening day. In a result that's not as disastrous as we all originally thought, Kone came on as a sub to nick a goal and an assist to force a late 2-2 draw against Watford. But as so often happens in the Premier League, plans get thrown out and adjustments have to be made.

Injuries and injury setbacks mixed with that strong start put Kone into a starting role he has basically not yet relinquished. But as stated at the top, that time has come. Kone's not succeeding in his current role because he's not meant to. He's not qualified. Most BPL clubs with Europa League-minimum expectations wouldn't have a 32-year-old starting on the wing. To answer the hot "Then who?" question, it's Kevin Mirallas who deserves to get a crack on the left wing in early 2016, even if he doesn't figure to add balance to a lineup that's currently leaning way too far to the right.

So, does that leave Kone as a top substitute? Based on the way Everton's games have gone, probably not. Frustratingly, more often than not the Toffees have been leading at some point in the second half of every recent match, so the top substitute would surely be a more defensive-minded player. Think Muhamed Besic if he weren't currently set to start with Tom Cleverley and James McCarthy set to miss time. Even on the left side, Brendan Galloway/Leighton Baines would be a more than competent replacement for Mirallas in a tight match with Everton leading.

But if the Toffees aren't ahead? Sure, it makes sense for Kone to still have a key role off the bench. With substitutes, and even non-great players for that matter, it's all about finding a role and situation for one to flourish. Kone has proven he can make something happen in a short time, and even if that's not scoring, that's OK because the left wing role will always be a supplementary position as long as it's across from Lukaku, Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu. Heck, I think I just described why Jesus Navas is still employed in the BPL.

Sure, it'll be really frustrating the next time Kone starts and squanders a 4 v. 3 chance because he made one too many errant touches. Just remember, the reason Martinez has him there is because Kone first proved he belonged there -- as a sub.